The current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030 according to the new United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division Report launched in June 2017. With roughly 83 million people being added to the world’s population every year, this is having a significant impact on the infrastructure industry not only in terms of increasing spend on infrastructure and the scale of the proposed projects.  Population growth also means that we are becoming more land constrained and also means that we need to deliver infrastructure more quickly to meet increasing demands.  It means that more projects will be built in brownfields environments raising complexity of planning and construction of major infrastructure in the areas of stakeholder management, traffic management and other key non-programme and price areas.

It will mean customers will need to get used to living and working in and around construction sites dealing with constant disruption, noise and frustration.  This will increasingly become a political issue for the silent majority and will continue to drive dissatisfaction with major political parties who have become distracted with retail politics and who may fail to focus on the core issues facing the public around work, transport, social cohesion and liveability.

It means Government will need to accelerate the time it takes to go from development to delivery to get infrastructure to market faster. This will require greater collaboration with the supply chain and increased focus on partnering and long term relationships to build the capability and capacity to deliver more efficiently and effectively.  It will mean that Government will not have the time to undertake property acquisition, detailed design, and consenting prior to going to market and will need early private sector involvement to accelerate works.  This will mean that Government will need to change the way it procures from lowest cost to value for money, and shift its procurement criteria from focusing on price and quality to also looking at non-technical attributes such as collaboration, urban design, stakeholder engagement, program flexibility, environmental impact, temporary traffic management and so forth.  Government will need to become more agile which will require it to empower its people and trust the supply chain to deliver outstanding outcomes.  Government employees will in turn need greater commercial acumen to ensure they make fit for purpose procurement decisions.

It means constructors will need to shift from focusing technical and price solutions to also demonstrating partnering, program flexibility, construction led design, stakeholder engagement and minimising construction disruption (noise, traffic, business).  Increasingly winning work will be less based on lowest cost and increasingly on non-technical aspects such as project development, customer experience, sustainability and accelerated delivery.

It means designers will need to shift from technical design and engineering to focus on customer experience, place-making and urban design.  Designers will be less valued for their technical excellence and increasingy valued for their non-technical innovation in terms of brownfields construction, customer experience and place-making.

It will shift our focus as an industry from building infrastructure to building communities, and from transport to connected journeys.

It will shift the focus from lowest cost to value for money.

It will shift the focus from stakeholder management to public value which require us to have a much better understanding of customer expectations and less of a focus on keeping special interest minority groups happy.

It will shift the focus from the “what” to the “why” and the “how”.

These shifts are already starting to occur.  Government departments are restructuring their organisation and making the customer the centre of everything they do.  Constructors are embracing new delivery models and recognising that lowest cost is no longer the only way to win work.  Designers are shifting from technical excellence to customer led design.  The question is not who is shifting; the question is who is being left behind.

Reference: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017). World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP/248.